From Food basket to blood basket; Why Benue is a key target of the Fulani herdsmen

The mass burial that broke our hearts.

3 days of mourning was declared, there was wailing, tears and desolation; some told stories of their loss.

Joseph Gem, a 57-year-old farmer in Logo Local Government Area spoke to the New Telegraph. He said that the herdsmen killed five of his younger brothers who were sleeping in a room. He said one of them was a member of the Livestock Guards deployed to the area for peace keeping. He had five children from two wives.

According to him “They were sleeping in a room and the Fulani herdsmen came and knocked on the door and when it was opened, they sprayed bullets and killed all of them and drove off. The New telegraph reports

#Benue mourns…they always have except that this new year there was a hashtag to tell their story and more detailed press coverage

Remember #Agatu killings PREMIUM TIMES, a leading online magazine in the country went into the devastation in 2016. Here and there corpses were seen lying in the most grotesque positions. The totally dried corpses in various stages of decomposition were pointers that the killings must have been done at different times. Read premium times report here

A family home destroyed during Agatu Massacre

Adebajo, the motorbike transporter who transported the reporter pointed out what used to be the family home of one Deborah Onuminya in Aila. The four-bedroom bungalow was badly burnt. So also was a kitchen and pen house behind it. A charred television antennae was still hanging on, Skeletons of iron beds, a television set, a refrigerator, crates of soft drinks, burnt mattresses and bedding.

Children’s books , shoes and a toy tricycle could be found in various parts of the building. There was also a charred human remain but they could not tell if it were a man or woman

See list of attacks by Fulani Herdsmen in Benue

Why Benue? Of all the 36 states in Nigeria

The state lies within the lower river Benue trough in the middle belt region of Nigeria on a boundary with Cameroon. There are many small stretches of rivers in Benue state passing through many local governments. The longest river Kastina- Ala connects into the bigger river Benue.

Because of the long stretch of rivers there is opportunities for fishing and dry season farming through irrigation. Its fresh water soil, favorable rainfall pattern account for its support for a wide variety of crops. Benue harvest the largest yams in Nigeria,grow soybeans, beniseed, maize, groundnut, cassava, yam, citrus and so on in commercial quantity.

Because of the constant water supply and lush greenery, multiple reports states that there is a grand conspiracy to resettle Fulani herdsmen and their cattle on parts of Benue Local government area to graze and have unfettered access to the streams

The deadliest attacks took place in the most strategic locations

The Agatu Massacre;

Adepati Island in Agatu was a perfect spot for farming and fishing. It is located in The Agatu local government . In 2016, Fulani militias swept into the area with AK47 rifles in broad day light. According to reports over three hundred people died, though the inspector general of police claimed the figures were exaggerated.

Attacks continued with pocket of violence until March, before it subsided to occasional attacks.

After years of violence and push backs, the Fulani herdsmen association and Benue state government agreed to a sharing formula. Benue state government signed a suspicious and rather controversial agreement ceding the Adepati Islands to the  Fulani herdsmen for grazing

Massacre in Moon district kwande Local government, Benue.

The moon district Kwande  Benue is known for its scenic nature with sparkling River Moon which flows mysteriously down the Cameroon Hills and connects with River Katsina Ala and then to the Benue River.

The lush vegetation and water attracts cattle herders to the predominantly farming communities.

When moon district was attacked, it was not get mass media coverage. maybe Nigerians were occupied with something else.  The state government did not collaborate the reports that there was killing in Moon district Kwande leading to speculations there was some internal conspiracy

The major evidence of an attack is that the Fulani herdsmen have been living there for the past three years  and previous locals have been displaced.

The leader of one of the Moon communities, Apeaor Adebo, said before the attack, Fulani herdsmen only came for grazing shortly after harvest season and left before the planting season. 

“Sometimes they would not come for five years and when we least expect, they would return but not without seeking permission from us,” Mr. Adebo recalled.

The herdsmen crisis is not just about farmers and the herdsmen cattle that destroy their crops, it’s a land grab!

Before now, the herdsmen had more options of vegetation and water for their cattle.

The north east Close to lake Chad, Zamfara and Sokoto river had vegetation and water bodies

Then Boko Haram happened, followed closely by climate change has caused drought. most of those northern rivers are partially dried up

The cattle have grown in number over the years, but then so have people.

“In the past you graze anywhere, you didn’t come into contact with farms. But now you’re forced to herd cattle along the road,” says Isa Mosham Sarkin, a local Fulani leader in neighbouring Nasarawa state.

The Fulani herdsmen , has lost their stronghold in the North east where their cattle grazed and drank. now they must take human lives to give their cattle a new home. 

In any part of the civilized world, Benue with its mountains and rivers would be a tourist attraction and an actual food basket, but right here it’s a mass grave… blood basket of the nation.

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